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Smoke Art - Try it yourself

June 16, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I do love my little projects.  Most Photographers will have another side to their interests in Photography.   I loved drawing and painting when I was younger but these days I find I have replaced the paintbrush with a DSLR but still been able to achieve what I have visualised in my head.  

I regularly go amongst Photography groups that cover a subject that I find interesting.  There could be a whole variety of images taken in loads of different ways to represent the same thing !   I am drawn to Floral, Insect, macro and micro photography. I also love Portraits and Abstract.  

Which leads me to my initial interest in SmokeArt and how I achieve it.  

This image set me off on the Journey to wanting to discover how this was achieved. https://www.flickr.com/photos/parc/322902484/in/faves-cjcoolcat/  back in December 2006.  But it wasn't until Dec 2009 I actually got round to doing it. Now I love them and continue to take more photos of them today. 

All you need is -

  • Incense Stick + Matches or Lighter
  • DSLR
  • 60w table lamp, but if you have studio flash lights the modelling lamp is very good
  • Dark room is easiest

 

Set-up

  • Light the incense stick and place it in a glass to keep it steady, or if you have a special stand for your incense sticks use that.
  • Once lit (follow instructions) place the smoking end very close to the lamp, so that as much light as possible is on the smoke.
  • Turn off all other lights, this is so that the background of the image will be black.
  • Keep a fairly fast shutter speed, anything between 1/125 and 1/200.
  • ISO100 or ISO200 is best for top quality and no noise/grain.
  • Aperture of about f/7 to f/11 so you have most of the smoke in focus. 
  • White Balance should be set to bulb if using a normal table lamp.
  • Also ensure your camera is set to continuous focus as the smoke and you will move around to get the best angles. 

 

Click away !   If the image looks fairly dark/ under exposed change your ISO setting to around ISO400-ISO600. This should still produce images with little noise/grain however if it does then you can always make some small adjustments in Lightroom/Photoshop to compensate.

 

Some of my images are inverted.  This changes the black background to white. You may notice that the smoke will not necessarily be grey or black, instead it will be blue, pink, orange or green. Which adds an interesting effect to your image. 

 

You can also change the colour channels across the image to bring out different colours along the strands of smoke.

 

Here are some examples that I have produced. 

The first image above was straight from camera with a little colour adjustment to make it more interesting, with the second image I changed the hue to change the colour and on the 3 image I simply inverted it to create a negative effect from the first image.

The first image above looks a little like a dancer.  The second image above is from 2 incense sticks and the 2 image looks a little like a jelly fish.

 

 

Troubleshooting

Sometimes shots don't always go to plan, it takes a little practice but you should be getting results fairly quickly. Here are some shots I took that didn't turn out as planned.

Image 1 - is due to Light Pollution. - The light was shining in to the lens. Just change the angle of your lens away from the light source.

 

Image 2 - was just too messy.  Watch what the smoke does, it will change constantly. Click away all you like, but you are looking for a nice clean drift of smoke that creates a nice pattern.

 

Image 3 - shows you the light source I was using and the incense stick at the bottom. I moved the light so that it came from the left side then zoomed in on the smoke only so that the incense stick was out of view.

 

Happy snapping !

 


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